12 Ways to Slice Your Next Restaurant Check in Half

Americans are spending more money eating out, but you can buck the trend easily. These tips will help you cut restaurant costs by up to 50 percent, if not more.

8. Don’t walk in starving

Elena Sikorskaya / Shutterstock.comElena Sikorskaya / Shutterstock.com

Yes, hunger is what brings us to restaurants. But just as you’re liable to spend more on groceries when you go to the supermarket on an empty stomach, you’re likely to order too much if you walk into a restaurant famished.

9. Eat dessert at home

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.comIakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

This is especially smart if you prefer to eat a simple dessert such as ice cream. The carton you bought at the grocery store can be just as tasty for a fraction of the price.

Even if you’re in the mood for a slice of cake, single servings generally can be found in a grocery store’s bakery department or frozen-dessert aisle for less than the cost of a slice at a restaurant.

10. Beware of menu mind tricks

AntGor / Shutterstock.comAntGor / Shutterstock.com

Studies show that certain menu characteristics make customers inclined to spend more money, according to Mental Floss magazine.

Examples include putting photos next to menu items, using fancy language and omitting dollar signs from prices.

11. Rethink your drink

Kristina Zhuravleva / Shutterstock.comKristina Zhuravleva / Shutterstock.com

You might think bringing your own alcohol to a restaurant would save you money. But even if a restaurant allows you to bring your own booze, you still might end up paying more than you expect.

Jay Zagorsky, a research scientist at Ohio State University, explains on his economics blog that one reason some restaurants adopt BYOB policies is that many customers who bring alcohol then buy coffee to sober up before leaving the restaurant:

“Letting people bring their own bottle boosts coffee sales. Coffee has a very high markup and this increases profits. Plus, coffee drinkers sometimes order dessert, which has a higher markup than main courses.”

Zagorsky says coffee markups can be as much 300 percent and soda markups can be up to 90 percent, so consider asking for water first.

12. Use social media to get discounts

bbernard / Shutterstock.combbernard / Shutterstock.com

Some eateries share discounts via social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Other places offer discounts or freebies to customers who “check in” via location-based social media networks such as Foursquare, which calls them specials.

What’s your favorite way to save money when eating out? Let us know in the “Comments” section below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More

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